Iran is increasingly aware of the hesitation and weakness within Western institutions; it has sewn and exploited misunderstandings and divergent opinions about its true ambitions and increased internal divisions within democratic countries. Time is running out, and while the West keeps talking, Iran keeps building. Through its defiant rhetoric, the theocratic Shiite regime is challenging the free world to make a tough and ugly choice: impose additional economic sanctions or take military action. But as long as the international community refuses to make a choice, we are allowing the Iranians to define the parameters of the game.
One of the chief obstacles to reaching a coherent and united foreign policy against Iran's nuclear ambitions is a lack of understanding about the real danger the Islamic Republic poses to Europe, the US and Israel. Another is the role of China and Russia, non-democratic countries that continue to do business with Iran and thus undermine sanctions intended to convince Iran to curb its nuclear program.
In addition to presenting an undeniable existential threat to Israel, a nuclear Iran would have repercussions whose significance eludes many Western strategists. Such strategists prefer to assume that dialogue is still possible with a regime that every single day expresses its dedication to annihilate a legitimate member-state of the United Nations and persecutes its own citizens for the "crimes" of being gay or being a female rape victim. Other innocent civilians, such as labor leaders, women's rights activists, religious and ethnic minorities and critics of the regime also suffer under the repression of the Iranian regime.
Ever since its theocratic fundamentalist revolution in 1979, the anti-Western foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been coherent and consistent. It intends to act as a regional - if not world- power, and it intends to acquire the means to achieve that goal. The Iranian regime has proven very predictable, but Western politicians, foreign policy theorists and the intelligentsia – who believe anything can be resolved with the right intent and effort - refuse to accept Iran's crystal-clear foreign policy goals.
Instead, those who should know better argue about the uncertainty of Iran's true intentions; the possibilities of applying additional sanctions; and permitting Iran greater flexibility and more incentives. If we assume, for a moment, that such experts misconstrue the danger Iran poses, what then? Is this a fatal bet the West should take?
At the Geneva talks on July 19, many critical questions were not asked, though the lives of hundreds of thousands of people may depend on the answers. For example, if Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, then why is it building long-range missiles? Why is Iran embracing genocidal incitements against Israel and why does it need to produce nuclear power at all given that it possesses the world's second-largest natural gas reserves and the world's fifth-largest crude oil reserves? Why has Iran deliberately constructed its nuclear installations underground and refused to allow access to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors? And why has Iran consistently rejected incentives that would help it prove what it already claims – that it is not, in fact, creating nuclear weapons?
Sentimental hopeSome misinformed analysts consider it plausible to live with a nuclear Iran, arguing that the acquisition of such a powerful weapon of mass destruction would automatically imbue responsibility and rational thinking. Such assumptions are faulty – a lethal leap into the known. Imagine Iran advancing its doctrine of supremacy, imposing its radical way of life throughout the region, plotting a coup in Bahrain, as it did in 1981, or, say, closing the Straits of Hormuz? What if it were to seize Iraq's oil or annex Lebanon and Kuwait? With a nuclear-armed Iran, the international community would have no means of deterrence.
Allowing Iran to procure a nuclear weapon would speed nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, a notably sensitive part of the world. What's more, the Iranians - who have already promised to share their technology with like-minded countries - could provide such a weapon to terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hizbullah. Iran is, in fact, already sending hundreds of millions of dollars and weaponry to insurgent groups in Iraq that are killing Americans; they are doing the same in Lebanon and Gaza, providing their proxies the means to kill Lebanese and Israeli civilians. Despite what analysts may say, they have yet to produce evidence that it is possible to live with a nuclear Iran. What remains, instead, is sentimental hope.
With the deadline expired last weekend for Iran to accept or reject the package of economic incentives offered by the Group of six, one question remains: At what point will Iran's interlocutors decide that enough is enough? While this question remains unanswered, those who negotiate with Iran should remember that they are attempting to appease a regime that continues to deny the Holocaust, holds the distinction of being the world's greatest state-sponsor of terrorism, and has even backed a group that has recruited 40,000 people to carry out suicide attacks against the West.
Gabriel Calabrese is a Middle East analyst who is completing his studies in international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Calabrese is doing a traineeship at the Foreign Ministry of Israel and is currently in Washington, D.C. where he is completing an internship at The Israel Project, a strategic communications organization